Thursday, 26 March 2009

Oil falls more than US$1 on Japan export data

LONDON, March 25 — Oil fell by more than US$1 (RM3.63) today to below US$53 a barrel after weak export data from Japan and as investors paused to reassess bank clean-up plans, halting a global equities rally.

Japan, the world’s second-largest economy, posted a record drop in February for exports — down by 49.4 per cent — as global demand for Japanese cars and electronics evaporated.

Bearish supply and demand data in the world’s largest oil consumer the United States and in third-largest consumer Japan also pushed prices lower.

US crude inventories rose last week by 4.6 million barrels to 345.5 million barrels, data from industry group American Petroleum Institute showed yesterday, with imports rising and refinery utilisation down.

In Japan, crude oil import volumes fell by 13.9 per cent in February, their lowest tally for the month in 20 years, preliminary data from Japan’s Ministry of Finance showed.

“The Japanese numbers certainly spooked the market,” said Rob Montefusco, a commodities trader at Sucden Financial in London.

“Crude numbers for the API data were bigger than expected, and we’re looking for the DOE (Department of Energy) numbers today to be higher. The market is on the back foot at the moment,” he said.

US light crude for May delivery fell US$1.28 to US$52.70 a barrel by 1237 GMT, after touching a near three-month high above US$54 yesterday.

London Brent crude fell US$1.33 to US$52.16.

The US Energy Information Administration, a branch of the Department of Energy, will issue its separate weekly report on nationwide stockpiles today.

Analysts said an excess of crude supply on world markets would not disappear soon, as no demand was surfacing to mop up the excess, and last week’s strong rally might have been an overly earnest response to US government stimulus plans.

“The price rise we saw in the past week was a little early, a little excessive. There’s still not a lot of demand out there,” said Simon Wardell at Global Insight, an oil trading advisory.

An expanded Reuters poll of 15 analysts yesterday showed an average forecast build of 1.2 million more barrels in the week to March 20, with gasoline supplies down by 600,000 barrels.

“It’s a market not used to 6 million barrels of spare capacity out there. Today we’re getting a bit more gloom from the American package,” said Wardell.

Today, European stocks slipped as a recent rally on the back of a US plan to purge toxic assets from banks’ balance sheets lost steam and figures showed a deterioration of German corporate sentiment.

Last night President Barack Obama renewed calls for leading economies to boost stimulus spending, repair credit markets and extend aid to poor countries when Group of 20 leaders meet in London on April 2.

Speaking with cautious optimism on Wednesday, a Chinese central bank adviser said China, the world’s third-largest economy, was showing signs of improvement.

“Before (the economy) bottoms out, it has to bottom. I believe it has bottomed, with the stimulus package and signs of recovery in some industries,” said Fan Gang, who sits on the Chinese central bank’s monetary policy advisory committee, in a Reuters interview in Hong Kong. — Reuters

Monday, 23 March 2009

Algerian minister predicts US$60-a-barrel crude oil

ALGIERS: Algeria's energy minister predicted Sunday that crude oil prices could hit $60 per barrel by the end of the year.

Chakib Khelil said OPEC has succeeded in keeping prices stable despite plunging demand for oil worldwide because of signs of global recession.

"We're going to have prices of $60 per barrel by the end of the year - I think it's possible," Khelil told reporters at a ministry briefing.

Oil stability is crucial to Algeria, where oil and natural gas make up 97 percent of exports.

The viability of state-funded infrastructure projects is directly tied to the price of oil.

Benchmark crude for April delivery fell 55 cents to settle Friday at $51.06 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Traders also shifted their attention to the May contract, which rose 3 cents to settle at $52.07.

It was the first time crude has ended the week above $50 since last year. - AP

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Oil drifts back Friday as traders reasses outlook

SINGAPORE: After surging above US$51 a barrel the previous day, oil prices drifted back Friday in Asia as traders reevaluated expectations for renewed crude demand amid persistent uncertainty about the global economy.

Benchmark crude for April delivery fell 86 cents to $50.75 a barrel by midday in Singapore on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Prices clibmed $3.47 on Thursday to settle at $51.61.

With the April contract set to expire Friday, most of the trading had shifted to the contract for May, which was down 34 cents to $51.70.

Oil prices have jumped from below $35 a barrel last month amid a global stock market rally and easing concerns about the international financial sector.

But oil inventories continue to rise, and there's been scant solid evidence that the fall in crude demand has bottomed.

The outlook for the global economy also remains cloudy.

"One significant bad figure and the whole thing can collapse, so it's really fragile," said Christoffer Moltke-Leth, head of sales trading for Saxo Capital Markets in Singapore.

Oil has been bolstered this week by news the U.S. Federal Reserve plans to buy $1.25 trillion of government bonds and mortgage-backed securities.

The announcement sent the dollar down on worries the plan would expand dramatically the money supply and stoke inflation.

Oil contracts are often used by investors as a hedge against inflation and a weakening dollar.

"Oil is still strongly correlated to the dollar," Moltke-Leth.

"What the Fed is doing - printing money to buy government debt - it's just the most inflationary thing you can do."

The dollar was steady at 94.58 yen Friday, but that was down from nearly 99 yen just two days ago.

The euro was trading at $1.3649.

OPEC has also helped boost prices by largely complying with 4.2 million barrels a day of production cuts the group has announced since September.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries decided not to reduce output quotas at a meeting on Sunday, but instead focus on adhering to the existing cuts.

Analysts estimate OPEC has so far fulfilled about 80 percent of the promised cuts.

"They won a bit of credibility by saying they have to stick to their quotas and be disciplined," Moltke-Leth said.

In other Nymex trading, gasoline for April delivery fell 0.53 cent to $1.43 a gallon, while heating oil was steady at $1.35 a gallon.

Natural gas for April delivery dropped one cent to $4.16 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent prices fell 29 cents to $50.38 on the ICE Futures exchange. - AP

Earlier report

NEW YORK: A weakened dollar and evidence that OPEC has significantly slowed production sent oil prices soaring to new highs for the year Thursday.

"I think we'll see higher oil prices for a while," said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research.

"There's an expectation that the market has bottomed out."

Benchmark crude for April delivery surged $3.47, or 7 percent, to settle at $51.61 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Oil prices hit $52.25 earlier in the day, a price last seen on Dec. 1.

Crude prices have increased 11.6 percent since OPEC ministers met in Vienna on Sunday.

The group said it would not cut production again immediately, but there is growing consensus that the millions of barrels taken off the market already each day are starting to balance a supply and demand picture that has been skewed for months.

With the April contract set to expire Friday, most of the trading had shifted to the contract for May delivery, where prices jumped $3.14 to settle at $52.04 a barrel.

Analysts rushed to buy crude after the Federal Reserve announced late Wednesday it would buy long-term government bonds, a measure that's expected to jolt the U.S. economy with lower rates on mortgages and other consumer debt.

The Fed also said a $1 trillion program to jump-start consumer and small business lending could be expanded to include other financial assets.

The announcements sent the dollar into a tailspin.

The U.S. dollar dropped against other major currencies almost immediately, at one point falling to levels not seen since January.

The dollar has fallen about 5 percent against the euro over the past couple days. Because oil is bought and sold in dollars, a weak U.S. currency makes crude cheaper globally.

"The government is basically printing money to buy back all this paper, and it devalues the dollar," said Phil Flynn, analyst at Alaron Trading Corp.

Flynn said the rise in oil shouldn't be taken as a sign that the economy in on the mend.

The Fed is using all of its powers to prop up American businesses, "and this is one of their last shots," Flynn said.

"If this doesn't work, they're out of bullets."

A government report that said jobless claims set a new record for the eighth straight week.

The Labor Department said continuing claims for unemployment insurance jumped 185,000 to a seasonally adjusted 5.47 million, another record-high and more than the roughly 5.33 million that economists expected.

Initial claims dropped to a seasonally adjusted 646,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 658,000, however.

That was better than analysts' expectations.

Job cuts are part of the reason for a severe drop-off in miles driven by Americans, a growing number whom no longer commute to work.

The Federal Highway Administration said Thursday that motorists logged seven billion fewer miles in January, 3.1 percent less than the same period in 2008.

The dour economic news did little to dissuade investors as prices topped $50.47 a barrel, the previous high for 2009.

Part of the reason is that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries appears to be pushing through the production cuts it promised to make last year, according to tanker tracker Oil Movements.

Member states agreed last year to squeeze global oil supplies, trimming 4.2 million barrels per day.

Crude exports from OPEC countries have been shrinking during the past few months.

They're expected to drop 770,000 barrels a day in the four weeks leading to April 4, according to an Oil Movements report.

While the recession kept oil near five-year lows, tighter supplies in the spring and summer should buoy crude prices in the next three months, the report said.

Cameron Hanover analyst Peter Beutel said a new high at closing Thursday, along with OPEC production cuts, the federal stimulus package and other bullish factors "are working together to be more important at this moment than the recession and its impact on demand."

"It means things are better than they've been in a while," Beutel said.

Also surging were natural gas prices after a government report showed that U.S. stockpiles fell slightly more than expected last week.

The Energy Information Administration report said inventories held in underground storage in the lower 48 states fell by 30 billion cubic feet to about 1.65 trillion cubic feet for the week ended March 13.

In other Nymex trading, gasoline for April delivery jumped 7.16 cents to settle at $1.4373 a gallon, while heating oil rose 9.2 cents to settle at $1.36 a gallon.

Natural gas for April delivery jumped 49 cents to settle at $4.174 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent prices rose $3.01 to settle at $50.67 on the ICE Futures exchange. - AP

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

SapuraCrest bags RM3b contract

The field is located in 1,200m water depth.

The contract from Sabah Shell Petroleum Co Ltd will be executed over three years, beginning this year, SapuraCrest told Bursa Malaysia yesterday.

Shell is the operator of the Gumusut-Kakap field as a contractor to Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas).

The award reflects Shell's and Petronas' confidence in our capability and reaffirms the position of SapuraCrest as a leading provider of technologically superior and high-quality services in the region," executive vice-chairman Datuk Shahril Shamsuddin said in a statement.
SapuraCrest will execute the works through joint-venture company Sapura Acergy Sdn Bhd.

Engineering and procurement work will start immediately, while offshore installation will begin next year.

The field is the first deepwater development for Shell in Malaysia, and SapuraCrest's second deepwater construction work to date, after the Kikeh gas pipeline in Sarawak at a water depth of 1,400m.

SapuraCrest said the project will involve more Malaysian engineers and managers, giving them opportunities to further develop in this highly-specialised field.

A major portion of the works will be performed by the group's state-of-the-art heavy lift and deepwater pipelay vessel, Sapura 3000.

"We have invested heavily in strategic assets and resources to the tune of RM1 billion over the last five years, and this has helped us position SapuraCrest to undertake projects of this magnitude and complexity," Shahril said.

MISC working on floating LNG project

MISC Bhd, the world’s largest owner and operator of liquefied natural gas tankers, plans to develop a floating LNG project to explore for gas in Southeast Asia by the second half of 2013, an official said.

MISC, which is working to liquefy the fuel aboard vessels, is also marketing a technology to allow regasification of LNG on a similar platform, Gunaseharan Ganapathy, the company’s vice president of LNG business, said today in Kuala Lumpur.

The company may have partners for the project, he said, declining to provide details.

“We have work ongoing to become a mid-stream player from a transporter,” Ganapathy said at the Gas Asia conference. “We are working on floating LNG solutions.”

The market for liquefaction and regasification vessels, where gas can be chilled and converted back to vapor, may total about US$8.5 billion by 2015, energy consultants Douglas-Westwood Ltd said in a report in December. Floating facilities may cost a third of an onshore plant and take less than half the time to construct, a Citigroup Inc report said in April.

The floating LNG platform will have a capacity of less than 2 million metric tons a year and may be deployed to extract the cleaner-burning fuel from small gas resources, anywhere up to two trillion cubic feet in deposits, in offshore Malaysia and neighboring countries, Ganapathy said. - Bloomberg